The holiday season is upon us and besides the bonhomie of the festivities this can mean only one thing — festive foods that even the most health-conscious among us find hard to resist.
Bingeing on food is a real health concern. Vast helpings of often irresistible food activate a simultaneous release of hormones, chemicals and digestive fluids that besides causing indigestion and drowsiness are also bad for the body.
Research from the Calorie Control Council indicates that the average person may consume an enormous 4,000 calories and a whopping 200g of fat during a typical holiday gathering. This gastronomical excess can quickly amount to 40 percent of calories derived from fat and a holiday meal equal to almost three sticks of butter.
The human stomach can comfortably hold a volume of around 1 liter of food and can stretch to a capacity of 3-4 liters after a blowout meal. While the stomach will not burst, overeating will make your body work harder.
When we finally flop on the couch, feeling sluggish, the jam-packed stomach is squeezing against other organs and giving you the sensation of feeling ‘stuffed’. The stomach and intestines fill with gasses, adding to the swollen feeling, and gets compounded if soda and other drinks are also consumed with the food.
The gasses that make drinks fizzy fill much more space in the stomach than the liquid it arrived in, leading to your body expelling the excess gas in one way, or another. Heartburn is also another unwanted after-dinner guest. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid to break down food - more food means more acid - irritating the stomach lining and creeping up the esophagus to create an unpleasant burning sensation. Antacids, such as calcium carbonate, use bases to neutralize the acid, which causes more carbon dioxide to increase the feeling of fullness, until your next burp.
Mental reactions are every bit as important when feeling full. During a big meal, cells in your intestines secrete a hormone called peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY). When PYY reaches the brain, it binds with receptors that give you a belly-busting feeling of fullness or perhaps even makes you feel a little queasy.
Some hormones react more strongly to meals that are high in fats, carbohydrates and proteins, but they all serve the same purpose - to get you to stop eating and avoid seconds.
Some of the things you could do to feel less stuffed this festive season is to not skip breakfast and fast in readiness for the main meal. Drink plenty of water and load up on veggies and fruits not carbs. Eat slowly and consciously; remember it is the quality not quantity of food. Do not treat the festive-meal as your last meal on Earth.